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GREENSBORO, N.C. – For two games, Natasha Howard did everything she could to keep her Florida State team alive in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Howard, a 6-foot-3 senior, scored 29 points on 14-for-22 shooting in Friday's 83-57 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals. That performance came a day after she went for 30 points and 16 rebounds in an overtime win against Miami.
"I'm just fighting for my teammates every single game, no matter if we come up with a win at the end or we come up with the loss," Howard said. "I'm just battling for my teammates."
Howard has led the way for Florida State all season with some dominating performances, most notably a 28-point, 22-rebound effort in an overtime loss to Duke. She came in averaging 20.9 points and 9.4 rebounds, including a career-high 40 points against Syracuse on Feb. 13.
She had also scored at least 30 points in three straight and four of five coming into Friday's game.
"Tasha has been somebody that's been willing to do whatever it takes," FSU coach Sue Semrau said. "Now you see the fruit of her labor and I'm extremely excited for that."
For Notre Dame, Jewell Loyd scored 17 points in the program's ACC tournament debut.
Kayla McBride added 13 for the top-seeded Fighting Irish (30-0), who ran off 21 straight points in the first half to turn their quarterfinal matchup with the ninth-seeded Seminoles (20-11) into a rout. Notre Dame shot 65 percent before halftime to build a 22-point lead at the break and never looked back.
Notre Dame advanced to Saturday's semifinals to face No. 14 North Carolina State, which lost by 24 points at home to the Fighting Irish less than a week ago.
The Fighting Irish went 16-0 in the league, becoming the first team since North Carolina in 2007-08 to go unbeaten in the ACC regular season. Notre Dame was so dominant that it also became the first team to win the league race by at least four games since Duke did it in 2001-02.
The Fighting Irish didn't need long to put that dominant form on display.
After starting the game 0 for 6, Notre Dame made 17 of 20 shots for the rest of the first half, with Loyd going 5 for 6.
Michaela Mabrey (12 points) hit consecutive 3-pointers to start the 21-0 run, while Natalie Achonwa followed a short time later with a three-point play.
The Seminoles got as close as 15 four times in the second half, the last coming at 66-51 on Howard's layup with 6:18 left. But Achonwa answered with a score, McBride hit two free throws and Ariel Braker followed with a layup to push the lead back up to 72-51 with 4:07 to go.
Notre Dame scored 23 points off turnovers and went 7 for 14 from 3-point range.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap